What To Ask Your Builder

Selecting a Builder

There are many things to consider when hiring a builder. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Seek a professional: Look for companies that emphasize customer service, quality, integrity, and a commitment to education.

Customer Service

A company that’s truly committed to client satisfaction will emphasize service from every member of its team and maintain a professional attitude in every interaction.

Quality

You get what you pay for. Be careful when assessing the prices set by different builders. The quality of the materials and service can make a significant difference in cost.

Integrity

Is your prospective builder trustworthy? Be cautious if you hear anyone suggest that a builder has been less than honest with clients.

Commitment to Education

Professional builders know that the quality of their service depends on the quality of their staff. They should ensure that their people have the tools to be successful with professional designations and continuing education.

Once you find a builder and settle on a plan, request a detailed, written contract that protects both you and the builder and complies with local, state and federal laws. The contract must spell out the work that will and will not be performed and provide a fair payment schedule.

Determining Your Budget

Before you contact a builder, decide what you can afford to spend. Your total budget should comprise the sum of cash plus borrowing power plus equity available for your project. At this stage, NAHB recommends that you visit your lender and pre-qualify for your mortgage. A lender will help you develop a realistic expectation of the budget for your new home.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Builder

  • How long have you been in business?
  • In what areas have you built?
  • What sets you apart from other builders?
  • What type of warranty program do you offer?
  • What are your fees for building a home (fixed price, cost plus, management fee)?
  • How do you charge for extras?
  • Who supervises your construction?
  • How long have your trade people been working with you?
  • How often during the week is the builder out at a job site?
  • Who will I be dealing with during construction? Will that person have the authority to make final decisions?
  • How many hours per year do you and your supervising staff participate in continuing education within the home building industry?
  • Do you belong to a trade association? Which one(s)?
  • In what activities are you involved?
  • Can you provide a list of references, including home owners, suppliers, subcontractors and consultants such as architects and engineers?
  • Have you ever been sued? If so, did you win or lose? Are there any suits currently pending? If so, please explain.
  • Are there any liens against properties that you have built?
  • Have you ever filed for bankruptcy protection?
  • Do you use environmentally responsible construction techniques?
  • Do you recycle material that cannot be returned to suppliers?

Ask Yourself the Following Questions

  • What can I afford?
  • What features do I want my home to have?
  • What is my current property or home worth?
  • What will my mortgage payments be?

Questions to Ask Referrals

  • Was the builder accessible or hard to find during your project?
  • Was the home completed when promised? If not, why?
  • Did the builder stay within your budget?
  • Did the builder follow plans and specifications, or did he or she make changes without consulting the architect or you?
  • Were there any surprises, such as excessive change orders, or did the work go smoothly?
  • How did the builder charge for change orders?
  • Were the allowances adequate?
  • Was follow-up on warranty work completed in a timely manner?
  • Do the home’s mechanical systems (air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical) function well?
  • Is the home energy efficient, keeping utility bills reasonable?
  • Why did you choose this builder?
  • Was the builder easy to work with?
  • Did the builder supervise the job closely?
  • What is the condition of the job site as a home nears completion?

Checklist for Touring a Builder’s Model

  • Does the electrical system and duct work appear to be neatly installed?
  • What materials are used in the kitchen and bath cabinets? Wood? MDF (Medium Density Fiber) particle board? Do the cabinet side panels match the doors?
  • What kinds of doors and hinges do the cabinets have?
  • Are the lighting fixtures attractive and well arranged for general and task lighting?
  • What types and quality of floor coverings are provided?

Getting Started

  • Develop an idea of the building project you have in mind
  • Determine how much you feel comfortable spending
  • Seek referrals from friends and neighbors
  • Make sure the buidler has a working knowledge of the types of homes and considerations of the area
  • Contact a local trade association and the Better Business Bureau to find out more about the builder you’re interested in
  • Verify the builder has the appropriate license(s)